A Protagonist’s Birthdate

Blog 42 ImagePeter Bradley, the protagonist in my first book, The Case for Killing, was born on July 20, 1960. It’s an interesting day to look back on. Eventually, it also causes Bradley some trouble.

From the July 21, 1960 Toronto Daily Star, we learn time-capsule things about July 20 like:

  • The Cold War utterly dominated international politics. Fears were growing of a new U.S.-Soviet clash in violence-stricken Congo; England’s Prime Minister Macmillan thought Premier Khrushchev had been particularly aggressive in the previous sixty days; and the wounds of the Cuban Revolution were raw and the seeds of the Cuban missile crisis sowed.
  • A Quebec divorce was front-page news. Divorce in Canada then required a salacious precondition like adultery. Quebec divorces were only available through private acts of Canadian Parliament.
  • It was warm and pleasant in Toronto, high 72 F (22 C) and low 55 F (13 C).
  • Measured by price, products were cheap. The newspaper cost ten cents; a sixteen-ounce jar of peanut butter was on sale for twenty-nine cents; a ten-piece bedroom set was on special for $159; inspected used tires were $4.95; and a Chevrolet Impala cost $2500-$3500, depending on the model and options.
  • Everything was much less connected. New Zealand had just introduced legislation to permit television. Two Toronto men became the first to travel by car from North America to Bogota, Colombia. In jungles, they lived on monkey meat, iguana and wild pig. People sold things using the classified sections of newspapers.
  • People worried how to fund the Toronto Transit Commission and that fare increases would worsen street congestion. Sound familiar?
  • President Eisenhower announced there would be a one billion dollar surplus for the year. A surplus.
  • The S&P 500 closed at 55.61. Last Friday, it finished at 2051.82. My parents should have bought and held.
  • In baseball, Mickey Mantle had the most runs in the American League; ditto Willie Mays in the National League. Like today, even in July, hockey figured prominently in Toronto sports news. Unlike today, news about horse racing did, too.
  • Suddenly Last Summer, The Battle of the Sexes and something called Cha Cha Boom played in the movie theatres.

Why does Peter Bradley’s birthdate cause him trouble? He may be Canada’s foremost anti-trust lawyer and quite engaging, but he’s also manipulative and arrogant. The type of arrogance that makes him believe he’s incapable of mistakes. He should have chosen a better online banking password, though. He keeps his wife, Amy, on a shoe-string budget and she’s after more cash. With her brother’s help, she steals Peter’s banking password then laughs at his choice: 072060PB.

Copyright ©2015 Peter Fritze

Where to buy The Case for Killing.

Follow me on Twitter @PFritze.

Improving the First Draft

Blog41 ImageIn early January, I read through the first draft of my as-yet-untitled third book. I wrote it last summer, so I got a fresh take on it. After finishing the book, I considered what questions to answer in order to create the best next draft. Here’s what I came up with.

Is the book a satisfying reading experience? If I didn’t like reading my book, it’s unlikely others will. I did though.

Does the structure work? I enjoy experimenting with structure. However, it can’t be at the expense of plot unfolding properly and good pace. I thought that, for the most part, the third book’s structure worked.

Are there plot problems? I plotted the third book quite carefully. However, I’ve seen at least one major plot problem. I’m sure I’ll also find many more minor inconsistencies; it’s amazing how those can hang around for many drafts.

What research is required? For better or for worse, I tend to write the first draft of a book with only the most essential research done. As I read the draft, I note down where more research is needed. For the third book, there’s a lot to do.

Do the characters resonate? In the first draft of a book, I only make the acquaintance of the characters. Going forward, they’ll develop much more. Lots of pleasurable work to be done there.

Do the characters have consistent voices? Characters’ voices can take time to develop. Many of my third book’s characters have only hinted at how they like to communicate.

Do the characters’ interactions make sense? Ah, no, not in all cases. For example, in the first half of the book, one character is quite friendly to another when she has reason to be angry or at least ambivalent. Overall I need to get to know the characters better; their reactions to one another will then clarify.

How is the writing? The quality of writing in my first drafts is always suspect and inconsistent. No surprise there; my first drafts are largely about seeing if there’s a story. I know it takes many drafts for the writing to become succinct and fluid. However, reading the third book front-to-back allowed me to identify redundant passages, poor transitions and, yes, even writing I liked.

On to the next draft!

Copyright ©2015 Peter Fritze

Where to buy The Case for Killing.

Follow me on Twitter @PFritze.

Reconnecting Through Writing

Blog40Last week, I tweeted that writing books is a great way to connect with people from one’s past. Many tweets have an untold background story. I’ve decided to tell the story behind my tweet.

My father was a Professor of Chemistry at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada. The Klaus Fritze Memorial Prize at McMaster is in his name. He came from a strong scientific pedigree, having been the graduate student of Fritz Strassmann in Mainz, Germany. Strassmann worked with Otto Hahn and Lise Meitner in the discovery of nuclear fission for which Hahn won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1944.

My father died much too young in 1980. My only time with him was when I was young. By his nature and through circumstances, he was withdrawn. I’ve been left with a picture of a man who was intelligent, inquisitive and introverted.

Several of my father’s former colleagues and graduate students are in touch with my mother. She told one about The Case for Killing, who told another, and both have bought my book. I ended up meeting the second and his wife last week.

What I got from a delightful afternoon was a new perspective on my father as a professor. I learned of his love for pure research; of his interest in bright minds from many countries; of an open door policy that led to a spirited exchange of ideas; and of help given to others so they could find their way in the world. I also learned that he was an independent thinker, sometimes to his detriment.

In addition, I heard details that drew me closer for the first time in a long time: morning and afternoon teas in his office; disdain for conservative politicians; neat laboratories; and handwriting which mine has followed.

A happy, unexpected result of writing a book!

Copyright ©2015 Peter Fritze

Where to buy The Case for Killing.

Follow me on Twitter @PFritze.

Eight Thoughts to Help Writers Persevere

IMG_20110531_095913I took a hard look at my writing accomplishments in 2014 and they’re mixed. I received a lot of positive feedback on The Case for Killing. I’ve also had strong beta reader and editorial support for False Guilt. However, sales of my first book have been modest; somewhat above average for a first time self-published author I think. And while I received some reviews, for which I’m very grateful, it’s challenging to get them.

That’s led me to ask how writers persevere. Here are eight thoughts for a writer to work with.

Recognize how perseverance contributed to other successes. My life successes have all involved dogged perseverance and its close cousin, patience. I doubt success at writing is different.

Writing gives pleasure. The challenges in writing are persistent self-doubt and finding a broad readership. But writers are not like Sisyphus rolling a rock up a hill for eternity. What they do is (or should be) enjoyable. Things like a fun plot development and seeing a character grow are significant rewards for all the pecks at the keyboard.

A writer is learning a craft. Another reward for all those pecks is that many writers will improve their writing ability.

There are writing successes to enjoy. Finishing research, an outline and especially a book are huge accomplishments that warrant chest-puffing. And if a reader says she liked your book, that’s a home run.

Learn to handle rejection. A writer shouldn’t expect to please all readers. There always will be critics and their viewpoints can offer learning. Also, if many people criticize a book, it means the book, not the writer as a person, is inadequate.

It gets easier after the first book. That’s been my experience anyway. It stands to reason that, like any pursuit, the learning curve of writing flattens.

Promotion can be learned…and enjoyed. Many writers view self-promotion as a necessary evil. However, promotion can be conquered using the vast, free online marketing resources available. And it often leads to gratifying contact with readers and other writers.

Remember how badly you wanted writing success. Pretty bad, right?

Any other thoughts?

Copyright ©2015 Peter Fritze

Where to buy The Case for Killing.